Other random thoughts and observations

In the “I’d rather not know” category:  I went into the restaurant kitchen at my hotel in Pushkar to get a glass.  Now over the last month, I’ve drunk cold drinks out of many glasses, but watching this particular glass be washed was a bit of an eye opener.  It reminds me of when I was about 5 or 6 and I just finished a plate of cookies and ice cream.  I licked the plate “clean” and put it back into the cupboard.  My mother was watching me, and took it out again, and told me the plate was dirty.  But wait, it looked clean, so it must have been clean, right?  Wrong, Bobby, it’s dirty.

I thought of that today as I watched this glass come from a shelf and get wiped with a large dirty cloth.  Then, noticing it wasn’t “clean” enough, the kitchen worker rinsed it under the cold tap (water mind you that I wouldn’t drink in a million years), and then re-wiped it with the same dirty cloth.  Hey, it looks clean, so it’s clean, right?

I drank my beer directly from the bottle.


Washing clothes in the lake

Food:  now there’s a heavy subject.  Probably the weightiest issue for me is that of eating.  The food on the bike trip was plentiful and reasonably tasty, if not a bit repetitive.  After all, how much Dahl Baht and rice can one person consume?  Well, it you’re Tibetan, quite a lot it appears.  They have it literally every day, and so did we, among other things.

In India, I have only a vague idea of the foods on the menu, so when ordering, I usually stay in a known range of items.  The basmati rice of India is very nice, and a welcome change to the sticky rice of China, but let’s face it, it still rice.  I’d do just about anything for some fresh fish and a trusted green salad.  Not something I’ll be eating until I’m back in Santa Fe.

Sub-continental haircut:  I did it.  I got a $1.20 haircut in Kathmadu, and while it’s not a very good haircut, it’s certainly not 30 times worse than my last one in Santa Fe.  Plus I got a head massage which included a very bizarre eye massage that I truly did not enjoy.  I drew the line when he wanted to twist my upper body into a pretzel with the objective of cracking my neck bone.  I don’t crack easily that way, so I had visions of him throwing my neck out in the process of finding the “crack”.   Thank you, but no thanks.


Coming into Udaipur there are hundreds of marble depots. Never before have I seen miles and miles of cut and uncut marble.

Travel books that don’t know what the hell they are talking about:  I’ve gained a new disrespect for travel books, even the Travel Bible, The Lonely Planet, since being on this trip.  One book said that a specific road in Tibet was paved after the 2008 Olympics, when in fact it was rock and dirt.  That’s not a matter of opinion; it’s hard fact that doesn’t change in a few years, even in Tibet. That minor omission is substantial when riding on a bike.

Then there are the many sights in India and Nepal that you read about and then experience.  I wonder a) if these travel writers ever visit most of these places, or b) if they do, are they seeing them though the wrong end of the telescope?  Sure, there are interesting sights in just about any town, but to discuss them with blinders on is, well, just a tad unrealistic.  After all, that’s not how one experiences a place in the real world.  You actually have to go to this supposed interesting place, and sometimes the journey is more enlightening than the destination (and quite possibly not in a positive way).

The guides also talk about the daily hassles of this city and that, of which precious few are ever really a problem.  I suspect they pull out their standard hassle list and stick in every book regardless of the practical realities of them actually happening or not.  Pick pocketing in India and Nepal?  Have I been in some parallel travel universe?  You would have to allow your wallet to dangle from your pocket to entice someone to actually take it from you.  Hell, I’ve dropped money and had people pick it up and give it back to me.  The only place I’ve felt safer is in Japan, but that’s an extreme place when it comes to travel safety.  Next time, I’m going to save my $20 and forget the travel book.


A worker managing the marble cutting machine.

Everything is “no problem” even if it is:  Your sign says you have espresso, do you have espresso, yes, no problem, but can I see your espresso machine, yes, no problem, can you please show me how you make an espresso, yes, no problem, see… see here this jar of Nescafe?  Yes, its espresso, no problem.   And: How far is the market from the hotel, no problem just 5 minutes walk, so, if I walk it’ll take me about 5 minutes, sure, no problem.  25 minutes later I reach the market.


I have no idea why I found this this endless sea of marble slabs so fascinating, but I did.

The scene of poverty raises a notch:  To get to Udaipur from Pushkar you have to drive through Ajmer, which is just 15km into the ride.   We left Pushkar at 7:00, so we were driving through Ajmer before the city had time to fully awaken.  Now I’ve seen quite a lot of poverty so far while in the region; but there’s poverty, and then there’s Ajmer.  Just when I thought I was becoming a bit anesthetized to seeing how most people live here, my drive through Ajmer took my awe to another new level.

Hundreds, probably thousands of people sleeping on the streets and along the roads, sometimes under makeshift tents made from a draped tarp, sometimes in row upon row of actual tents that had no front or back, but more often, not even a newspaper covering them as they laid on the bare ground.  I saw children sleeping on the concrete median in the middle of the road.  Small fires were burning in corners throughout the fringe of the city giving the soot-filled air another level of toxicity from the burning plastic.   Open pits of putrid water were being used for all sorts of activities.   I left my camera in the case, it was too depressing to try and record any of it.

Then, when driving over a bridge, there were several women, nicely dressed as they normally are, sweeping dirt from the edges of the curb.  Sweeping dirt?  The context of this activity in light of what was happening just before the bridge seemed bizarrely out of place.

Then we drove by the Ajmer train station.  This is where I would have arrived and departed had I used the train system as originally planned before I decide to hire a car and driver.  The train building sat back from the road about 50 feet with a high wrought iron fence at the street line.  In that 50’ space between the fence and the building was a solid mass of people that extended the full width of the station.  Hundreds of people were jammed together, apparently trying to work their way into the station.  Had I kept my original plan, I would be there.  Well, actually, I wouldn’t, ‘cause my minor claustrophobia would have escalated into a world-class anxiety attack.  No, the train experience would not have worked.

~ by Robert on June 13, 2011.

One Response to “Other random thoughts and observations”

  1. I love the marble photos – I can see why you were captivated !


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